FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
Enabling Rapid Global Mobility can be a demanding and often grueling mission. Delivering air refueling capabilities around the world is hard work and can take a toll on Airmen’s bodies. Team Fairchild’s Human Performance Cell is taking a holistic approach to combat chronic injuries and help Airmen get back to the fight.
The 92nd Medical Group started an innovative program in January to support full-spectrum readiness. HPC is composed of a multitude of medical specialists that deliver one-on-one, personalized care to address specific physical demands and to change the culture of each group within the 92nd Air Refueling Wing by using a proactive approach.
“HPC’s treatment plans assist in restoring functionality to common and recurring musculoskeletal injuries that Airmen commonly endure,” said William Saultes, 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron health promotion coordinator. “The program transitions Airmen from injury rehabilitation to improving strength and flexibility of weak areas, preparing them to remain deployable while maximizing their unit’s mission capabilities.”
The HPC team shares responsibility for each patient’s outcome. This team consists of a primary care manager, orthopedic provider, physical therapist and their assistants, as well as the Behavior Health Optimization Program, a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, registered dietitian, a strength and conditioning coach and an aerospace physiologist.
The program offers more than its predecessor, the Functional Return to Duty Clinic, which assisted Airmen after an injury was sustained. HPC’s new proactive approach has two phases: target the recovery and healing of injured Airmen and focus on performance optimization to prevent future injuries by working directly with squadrons.
“We are embedded into the [Airmen’s] units to give us a better understanding of physical, mental, social and environmental work demands,” Saultes said. “With this information, we will try to implement policy that will facilitate a culture of change throughout the squadrons, and eventually the entire base, with an end goal of [having] the healthiest and highest performing Airmen.”
The eight-week intensive physical therapy program includes one week for a pre-assessment and another for a post-assessment. The pre-assessment determines the personalized care plan for each injured Airman while the post-assessment determines what follow-up appointments may be required.
This unique program focuses on getting injured Airmen deployable again by building the strength and endurance required for successful mission performance in a demanding environment. Readiness factors the HPC addresses are physical fitness, performance nutrition, and positive social and spiritual relationships.
The HPC even monitors sleep hygiene with watches that track nocturnal habits.
“The sleep watches provided are a very important piece to the holistic approach of care,” Saultes added. “We want to monitor all aspects of the Airman’s health and performance; [the watch] ensures the work they are doing with physical therapy isn’t being jeopardized by a poor diet, sleep and other barriers that are diminishing their recovery efforts.”
For Airmen to qualify for the HPC program, medical staff evaluates several factors such as severity and longevity of the injury, past and present exemptions, and require commander approval.
This new program is projected to increase deployability rates and reduce duty-limiting profiles by 60 percent while preventing future injuries.
Master Sgt. Shawn Merritt, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron sortie support flight chief and HPC patient, is one of the first Fairchild Airmen to go through the HPC.
“I’ve had multiple surgeries due mostly to the normal wear and tear of working on the flight line as a maintainer,” Merritt said. “I was extremely excited to find out that I was going to participate in an all-in-one treatment plan in an effort to get me back to full-duty status.”
Fairchild’s Human Performance Cell’s focus on having fully-capable Airmen will improve not only their quality of life, but their ability to better accomplish their missions to enable Rapid Global Mobility … Now.